Beitar Jerusalem supporters with Kach flag
Beitar Jerusalem supporters holding the flag of Meir Kahane's Kach movement. Photo by Haggai Aharon
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An extreme right-wing Jewish group in France is recruiting Jews with military experience for a solidarity mission to Israel in order to help “defend” Jewish settlements in the West Bank from Palestinian protesters who are expected to march toward some of them on or around September 20.

The organization that put out the call for militant Jews is the French branch of the Jewish Defense League, or Kach, an organization established by Meir Kahane in the late 1960s and banned in the United States and Israel, but tolerated in France.

According to a spokesman for La Ligue de Defense Juive, the mission will take place between the 19th and 25th of September and will be made up of five groups of eleven people each, who will take “positions” in five different West Bank settlements. All expenses for the participants have been paid for by French donors that the group declined to identify.

The participants, French men and women between the ages of 23 and 34, all have military training, which was a prerequisite for joining the mission, says Amnon Cohen, a spokesman for the group, who himself was a soldier in the French Foreign Legion for 15 years. The plan, says Cohen, is not to “provoke the Arabs,” but rather to “be on hand in case the settlements need our help with defense if the Arabs attack… at this precarious time.”

In the U.S., the JDL is considered to be a violent, racist and extremist organization, and is on the FBI’s list of terrorist groups. Similarly, in Israel, the JDL’s sister movement Kach, as well as its offshoot Kahane Lives – whose stated goals included the violent expulsion of Arabs from the country-- were both outlawed in 1994, on the grounds that they were terror organizations, and as such, a threat to state security.

Over the years, LDJ has participated in a number of demonstrations in France, some of them violent. The group has protested a speaking event of an author known for anti-Israel views, a performance of a well known comic critical of Israel, a photography exhibit showing pictures of victims of war in Gaza, and the offices of various news organizations that the group believes to be biased against Israel.

The LDJ demonstrated against Palestinian politician Marwan Bargouti when was honored by a local municipality and also mounted a protest outside the Percy hospital when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was brought there for treatment, chanting: “Arafat, bastard, the Jews will have your skin.” Over the years, various leaders of the organization have clashed with the police and several have been arrested – but the group has not been outlawed.

The LDJ had no trouble organizing logistics for its upcoming mission to Israel, says Cohen, and everything has already been coordinated in advance with the five settlements that are awaiting their arrival. The participants will not fly to Israel as a group, added Cohen, but rather are coming on different days, independently of one another, leaving from Paris and Nice. Some of the group have already arrived in Israel, he said.